Humorist Eliot Glazer brings both warmth and with to the often-snarky ugliness of the web, spawning an Internet photo phenomenon—and a charming collection of essays—that celebrates how Awesome Mom & Dad once were. That is, before you came into the picture…
by Steven Foster
Of course there is the plethora of kitten videos. And babies laughing, in slo-mo. Captured moments of bliss and joy and beauty abound. But face it—so much online content can be absolutely nasty. Even venomous. So you would think an Upright Citizens Brigade-trained comic would contribute at least a teasing little video or blog post that had a trace of snide.
Instead, humorist Eliot Glazer began posting pictures of parents. Not embarrassing pictures meant to shame or ridicule, but to celebrate. Even more revolutionary, both for the blogosphere and for today’s airbrushed, posed, and Photoshopped perfection, the photographs on the blog My Parents Were Awesome are refreshingly undoctored. Yep, they show old mom and dad in their actual hip-hugging, bell-bottomed, midriff-baring glory—Adidas sneakers, porn mustaches and all.
Why wouldn’t the website become a smash?
Now My Parents Were Awesome is a book, timed to be the perfect Mother’s Day (or Father’s Day) gift. Edited by the openly gay Glazer, My Parents expands the website’s concept to include not just photographs but hilarious and touching essays by writers, comedians, musicians, and artists—memories about moms and dads that are as unpolished as the pictures. OutSmart caught up with Glazer in between performances at the UCB Theater and his blogging gig at MTV’s Buzzworthy.
Steven Foster: For the readers who don’t really know your work, can you give us the 411?
Eliot Glazer: I started doing standup and storytelling about four years ago, and then I trained at the UCB Theater here in New York and became an in-house performer. My sister and I were co-writers. We started a show called High School Talent Show, which was basically a mock talent show, that ran for three years. She has a web series called Broad City, and I’m working on a web series now.
What’s the web series?
It’s a more realistic view of young gay life in New York that you usually don’t see elsewhere. We’re hoping to have it ready to go in the summer. It’s going to be called It Gets Better-ish.
Excellent. Tell us how the book got started.
Well, I was working for Urlesque [the wildly popular humor site that became a victim of the AOL merger] as a full-time blogger, and it was always easy to get caught up in the snark and, you know, negativity that’s online. That has its place, but I wanted to create something that was a little bit warmer, kind of a nice destination. In having that as the goal, I realized that a lot of people have this experience of having a cool picture of their parents or grandparents as a kind of treasure, and I figured that it would be the kind of thing people would want to share with others. So I built the blog very quickly and got some cool pictures from my family and friends. Before long it became a sensation and people were sending in pictures non-stop and I started getting press for it.
So then publishers started noticing…
And I signed with one and she’s fantastic, and we decided to turn the book into an anthology of essays instead of just being a picture book, so it could just be a more…flavorful read, I guess.
Speaking of flavorful, the book opens with an essay and picture from Paula Deen’s son. Was that a blind submission or did you know him?
My editor got in touch with him, and I thought it was a great way to start the book. And I love Paula Deen, so it was great to have Jamie open the book. But I’m very proud of the book because it was very strenuous since there was a time crunch, but it wasn’t until the book was basically put together that I was really happy to see that we really did capture a wide flavor of parents. All the essays are based in reality, and there’s sweetness and sadness and romance. It really runs the gamut of how everyone feels about their parents. It’s not one-note.
Who were your influences growing up?
STELLA [the influential comedy troupe behind The State], Saturday Night Live, Wet Hot American Summer, Zach Galifinakis. More modern, absurdist comics. I still love Ellen Degeneres and Rosie O’Donnell and Judy Gold. I just happen to find lesbian comics really funny. I love Judy Gold. I think she’s hilarious. Growing up, it was more Saturday Night Live, but as I got older it was definitely the more non-traditional comedy like Zach and Patton Oswald.
Where did you fall on the whole Gilbert Gottfried drama—his getting fired from his Aflac gig for his jokes about the earthquake in Japan?
What did I think about it?
Yeah, as a comedian. Joan Rivers vehemently defended him while a lot of others were, Hey dude, not cool. Way too soon.
I think it’s offensive enough that… I mean, it’s not like enough time for you to go and make these terrible, terribly offensive jokes. I don’t think it’s anyone’s job to disdain an entire nation after such a horrible tragedy. I found it kind of icky.
You mentioned Ellen and Rosie and Judy Gold. Do you think gay people are funnier than straight people?
I do find women, especially lesbians . . . I just find them funnier. But I don’t think that sexuality makes someone funnier. I don’t think gay people are funnier than straight people. One thing I don’t like is when straight comedians use gay people as a tool to achieve comedic success. I’m personally offended by people like Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho who bank on gay people as a sort of merchandise, you know? I don’t like it when a comic calls a gay audience “The Gays.” I just find it very insulting and one-note and cheap. I just think someone should stand on their own two feet when it comes to their comedic material [rather] than marginalizing one group in an indirectly offensive way.
That’s fascinating. I’ve never heard that position before.
I’m just very sensitive about that issue, personally.
Personally, I still think Cho’s funny, but I hear you on the Kathy Griffin bit. I feel like she’s just riding the gay train and telling us what she watched on TV last night. She bores me to f–king tears. [Pause] Wow. I think your point is so interesting.
How old are you?
God, you’re a baby.
Are you single?
I have a boyfriend.
How long have you been dating?
We’ve been together since Halloween of last year.
This so sounds like the setup for a joke. [Both laugh] How did you meet?
Actually we met through a friend. She was a co-worker and I was like, “I gotta find you a boyfriend.” And she said, “I gotta find you a boyfriend.” And I said, “Good luck.” And then she set me up with her friend and I just fell head over heels. He’s definitely one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I really didn’t think I’d ever find someone like him, but he is wonderful. He’s just the best. Across the board.
Is he in the business?
No. Well, I guess. He works for Focus
I love Focus.
Yeah. I’m always pushing for Focus movies. We definitely fell for each other over The Kids Are All Right.
Which totally got screwed over at the Oscars this year.
Yeah, we were both mad when Annette Bening didn’t win. And I loved the way it portrayed a gay family with such sincerity and it didn’t make a big deal out of their relationship, which I think is really important for people to see. There was a level of normalcy that didn’t need to be overwrought with ornament. It was kind of a feeling of just, This is how it is, this is how we live, and it’s no different than anyone else. Even in the way Julianne and Annette’s characters fought…sorry to go off on a tangent. I just love that movie.
I’m with ya. And totally appropriate that you’re talking so passionately about a movie about parents when you have your book coming out. Hey, lemme ask you one last question.
Do you really have a Bea Arthur tattoo?
Yes I do.
When Rue McClanahan died, my mom texted me and said, “Please don’t get Rue McClanahan on your other arm.”
Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.